January 16, 2021

Is It A Sin To Be A Stay At Home Dad?

One gets the impression that, in some churches, a stay at home dad runs the risk of being taken out in the back yard and “dealt with” by “the dudes.”

Since the issue came up here at IM, I thought I’d send along some of what others have to say.

In this video, Grace and Mark Driscoll speak to the issue of Stay At Home Dads. They’re unanimously not in favor.

Jared Wilson writes a two-part exegetical/practical look at the issue: Is It A Sin To Be A Stay At Home Dad?

Jared has been one of those SAHDs for quite a while. He’s also a pastor/church planter/author/blogger and honorary member of the BHT.

Here’s part 1 and part 2.

Make up your own mind. I’m not here to tell you what to think. For my money, believing the Bible is laying down that level of prohibitions on family options goes right past me. And if a church sees it as a matter of church discipline if a guy and his Dr. wife decide he’s going to stay at home? Huh? Income generation according to gender? Todd Palin…..call for you on line 3.


  1. I noted that a few times Pastor Driscoll said, “We’re not legalists here.” How else should we define, “Follow the rules and be blessed”?

  2. Unfortunately, I think in this case Driscoll has taken what should be Biblical wisdom and succumbed to an overzealous reaction against particular cultural problems in his ministry to produce unnecessary legalism. Driscoll has a tendency to do this with regards to gender roles. In his very focussed striving to combat genuine failures of the young men around him, he takes legitimate Biblical interpretation and then applies it more specifically and more rigidly than can be fairly supported by the text. It is a classic trap of legalism that many are prone to.

    I thought Jared presented an excellent take on the subject. It seemed to convey much the same thrust as what often underlies what Driscoll says, but is seasoned more with charity than a mission.

  3. I usually enjoy Mark Driscoll and find him pretty refreshing because of his willingness to speak his mind. But in the video where he and wife talk about SAHD’s, I really think they are being legalistic about SAHD’s. The main issue is that the family is provided for, and the father isn’t a lazy bum. In some cases the overall good of the family means that the Dad needs to stay home at least part of the time, and the Mom works.

    Case in point: What if the Mom’s job pays better, but also includes health insurance coverage? The “best scenario” for the family would surely include health insurance of some kind. Many ministers I know don’t have health insurance for their families because their churches don’t provide it, especially if it’s a smaller church.

  4. A couple more thoughts I didn’t include in the previous post…

    Mark Driscoll’s “hard-line” stance on SAHDs seems to be one piece of a broader picture where some Christians are trying to make pronouncements about family issues that are more cultural than biblical. In my current suburban setting, where we attend a megachurch, there is an unspoken pressure for the Mom to stay at home with kids. However, most of these families have Dads who work for secular companies and make great salaries.

    At the church where I used to work, there was a HUGE pressure to home-school children. If you sent your kids to public school, you were seen as a bad parent. However, there actually are good public schools out there. Homeschooling is not the answer for society’s ills, although for many families it works great.

    It seems to me that parents ought to be able to make up their own minds about how best to raise their kids, without the guilt from others who believe that the SAHM or homeschooling-type of approach is solution that fits everyone. Each family has considerations and circumstances that are unique to them. I am kind of shocked that Driscoll would make this a matter of church discipline; I would think it would have to be a very extreme case for the church to intervene in this way.

  5. One of the things I’d like, but don’t have much hope of seeing, is a complementarian scholar come out and say this level of application is impossible to base on the statements in the pastoral letters. The general application to a lazy, non-contributing man are there, but the specific applications the Driscolls are making- esp the discipline threat- are simply NOT THERE. In other words you can wave your Bible around all you want, but when you are totally outside of the Bible in your conscience-binding, speaking for God statements, you’re the same as the liberals you denounce as misusing scripture.

    But I’m not holding my breath on that one. The culture war crowd routinely goes to logical extremes and then runs to hide behind scripture, when the fact is they are not interpreting the pastoral letters anywhere close to their actual context, and they are abusing many good people who are doing what scripture tells us to do: serve and honor God as families in how we do anything.

    And for those on irony alert, Driscoll’s wife shouldn’t be in a mixed group of adults telling anyone what the scripture means.

  6. Alan (not + Alan) says

    I would like to say I’m surprised that someone would drop “church discipline” on a SAHD but sadly that doesn’t appear to be the case in some churches today (apparently they have some free time on their hands). Now if the guy is a deadbeat who is doing nothing and not using his gifts/talents to provide for his family, I can see that and he should be taken to task.

    On the flip side of the coin, if a church is going to bring a case against a SAHD, then would they drop some discipline on the dad who works 70+ hours/week and never sees his kids or wife? He’s providing for his family monetarily but absent spiritually. Or does that cut into our “prosperity gospel” and new building funds?

    As for Jared Wilson’s case, I don’t get how anyone could criticize him for being a SAHD when he’s a pastor/church planter and a writer. Are none of those jobs?

  7. I think the issue of discipline is difficult, although in principle I agree with Driscoll.

    Setting aside historic patterns, I think we intuitively understand that moms (when they abide by scriptural teaching of Christian mothering) are best suited to be the primary caregiver for chidren. When a situation deviates from that, and “seems” to be a better option it would be in spite of, not because of the structuring decided on by the parents.

    This is not an issue to divide over, but one to be discussed frankly in light of scripture, which gives strong credence to the complementarian model.

  8. If this misapplication of scripture looks a bit silly to so many of us in the church, just imagine how it looks to those outside to whom the church is supposed to bear witness of the love of Christ.

    I mean, marriages in the church have about the same divorce rate as marriages outside, yet somehow what becomes suddenly and improbably important is the precise division of family duties and support by gender. Huh? And this is supposed to attract people to the kingdom and the love and the grace and the compassion and the salvation of our Lord? No wonder so many are staying away.

  9. Ron, I “intuitively understand” that my children are best served when mom and dad are full partners in the process of raising them, no matter what it looks like.

    I also “intuitively understand” that our families are best served by churches and pastors that speak where the Bible speaks and don’t require adherence to one normative application of Scripture at this level.

    Furthermore, I understand “through hard study” that the complementarian position (which I once held strongly) has nowhere near as much credence as I previously thought.

  10. Alan, you have raised an incredibly important point about Dads who are workaholics. The number of SAHDs, I’m sure, is a tiny fraction of Dads who routinely miss out on their kids lives because they are physically, emotionally or spiritual unavailable to their wives and/or children. Yet I dare say that this model of workaholism is not only tolerated, but encouraged, not only in the marketplace but also in contemporary ministry.

  11. LOL “Todd Palin… call for you on line 3.” (I’m laughing and slapping me knee right about now)

    Oh boy, the church defining these kinds of things just make me roll my eyes. All these niggly little issues are just a big fat distracting smoke screen covering up what is really bottom line stuff. It’s more white-washed tombs crapola. Sorry for being so terse.

  12. Rob Lofland says

    I don’t expect you to allow this to post but you do know this culture nonsense is why the world thinks we are all nuts, right?

  13. Todd Palin doesn’t have a 3rd line, he’s at home.

    Unless my nipples start to spontaneously produce milk I’m going to have to leave the active care of the babes to my wife.

    Families in most of the world and at almost all times in history worked as multi-generational teams on the family land or a family trade. They built assets that they owned and controlled, often with resources inherited from their father, and worked in cooperation with their brother’s families. The ultimate responsibility, in this case, rested always on the man for stewarding these resources.

    Not sure how well this cross applies today to a woman going off to work. I have sympathy for Mark’s point-of-view but I’m not sure he understands what that meant in 1st century culture. Not saying the command to provide is culture (it’s not) but his extrapolations from there clearly are reacting to our culture (day cares, mom’s with career paths etc.) without an understanding of classical cultures.

    Men should still spend most of their working life building and growing multi-generational assets WITH his family but who cares if that’s done from home or an office.

  14. I would like to make it clear that as one who mainly supports Driscoll’s view, I have a clear understanding that I’m to be careful about my relationship and support for my family.

    As is a usual tactic with those opposing the complementarian view some will divert the discussion to men who are workaholics or fail in a certain respect to meeting their family’s needs outside of work.

    I’m keenly aware that I am to love my wife and child and lead them with a servant’s heart. My wife has no less value in her opinion than me, and if anything by her resolute love for our child and myself is more influential on our family than many would acknowledge.

    As Driscoll says there are circumstances where SAHD’s are necessary, but they should not be by preference. As an aside I don’t agree with disciplining someone for the decision, but I would not be silent about it either.

  15. My wife and I discovered well into middle age that two children is not a quiver-full, and as a result we were not in God’s will. One of the posts above reminded me of this. I guess we’re supposed to adopt really fast to make up the deficit.

    It’s all nonsense.

    Isn’t Driscoll and Mars Hill supposed to be the city on the hill, the shining light of hope atop the landfill of dead and decaying evangelicalism? Is this as good as it gets?

    Then again, I can shrug this stuff off, move along and still call myself an evangelical. In another denomination, disobeying family planning edicts would be met with disciplinary actions. If evangelicals won’t cross the Tiber, is the Tiber being brought to evangelicalism?

  16. “Isn’t Driscoll and Mars Hill supposed to be the city on the hill, the shining light of hope atop the landfill of dead and decaying evangelicalism? Is this as good as it gets?”

    An unfair statement to be sure. No church in the life should acquire the mantle: “As good as it gets”. However one perceives Driscoll at least he wades through places that are controversial to a myriad of folk. I would argue decaying evangelicalism could be attributed to the issues that Driscoll is willing to face head on, which ironically are ones the decaying parts don’t want to face.

  17. Let’s not rip on Driscoll too much. I may totally disagree with him on this particular issue, but I’ve heard enough of his stuff to realize I agree with him maybe 85 percent of the time. As might the rest of you. We’re only focusing on this one addle-minded fatwa he handed down; don’t conclude from this that he’s therefore wrong about everything else. He still loves Jesus and still preaches Him to a largely pagan city.

  18. If we are really honest we ALL would have to admit that the ideal circumstance would have been for Adam to get Eve pumping out the kids a bit earlier and then made her stay fully occupied mommying instead of trying to take the man’s role of deciding what trees to pick fruit from, but noooo, Adam went slack and let Eve do her thing. Look where that got us.

    I am planning on becoming a stay at home parent in April and am pretty excited about it. My wife is a teacher and I am a musician, who right now can’t fully support just the two of us. She has a steady paycheck, benefits, decent hours, a lot of time off, and while I am sure that caring for a baby will certainly slow me down, it does not inhibit me from pursuing what I feel called to do.

    I happen to be part of an ACTS 29 church and both my wife and I believe in the more traditional view of headship in marriage, but honestly I did not even watch the video of Driscoll because , while I appreciate many of his contributions to my local church, I have heard enough from him. He may help others, but there really is no reason for me to take him into consideration at all.

    Like many people have stated, it seems like the Driscolls are making mistakes with both scripture and history. I think when it comes to the work/laziness issue that most churches are looking through a wrong lens. I think Paul is judging extreme laziness and ultimately people who mooch when they could provide for themselves and share with others. In our culture we measure by the 40+ hour work week.

  19. I over-stepped in my last comment; I apologize for engaging in blatant begging-the-question. I agree that one issue does not define a church, any more or less than it should be used to define an individual believer.

  20. Tigger23505 says

    Um, excuse me but weren’t Abraham and Isaac stay at home dad’s. I’m pretty sure that Joseph’s shop was not to far from the house as well.

    Speaking of that when I lived in Hornell, NY my next door neighbor was a barber. Shop on the first floor, apartment on the second. When his kids were growing up, in that house would he have been considered a stay at home dad?


  21. i’m not legalistic or anything, it’s just that what i want to say needs to be taking legalistically. “i’m pretty important. people know me.”

    i’m a dude. i’m a dad. i’m a pastor. i get to stay at home once a week with my little girl on my day off and we have a blast! if someone in my church of all places tried to tell me i couldn’t stay at home with my daughter because it’s sinful, i’d leave the church. isn’t this sort of like looking at the speck in the eye of another while you have a giant log in your own eye?

  22. I wonder how many who post here are just trying to annoy those with opposing views instead of making legitimate points?

    Maybe Tigger23500 and Chad M are joking. I hope so because they are foolish points if intended to be serious.

  23. I just watched the video and was shocked by it. My husband does a great job caring for our son while I work. I think that its both the mother and father’s job to make sure that their children are provided for.

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